Scrap ‘disastrous’ Arunachal mega dam project, say activists

A group of conservationists and former members of the National Board of Wildlife (NBWL) has written to the Ministry of Environment Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) seeking rejection of a key sub-committee’s nod for the 3,097-MW Etalin Hydro Electric Project in the Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) of the Ministry had on April 23 discussed the private sector project that its own documents said would involve the clearing of 2.7 lakh trees in “subtropical evergreen broad-leaved forest and subtropical rain forests”.

An FAC sub-committee subsequently said the project “may be allowed subject to the condition that the financial outlay of Wildlife Conservation Plan be deposited to Forest department by user agency (private firm) on the basis of a study done by the Wildlife Institute of India (WII) ‘accepted in toto’.”

Resultant protests by green groups later made the MoEFCC put the Etalin ball in the court of the Union Power Ministry.

On Monday, former NBWL members Praveen Bhargav, Shekar Dattatri, Biswajit Mohanty and Kishor Rithe and conservationist D.V. Girish wrote to the FAC Chairperson and members pointing out why the ‘disastrous’ Etalin project needed to be junked.

“Based on our analysis of published data and peer-reviewed scientific principles of landscape ecology, we submit that the sub-committee of the FAC appears to be ignoring established tenets of forest conservation and related legal issues while recommending this proposal, which is highly destructive, and the impacts of which cannot be mitigated. This may be tantamount to a breach of the FAC’s constitutional and statutory duty to conserve forests,” the conservationists said.

They referred to the observations of the Supreme Court on protecting and improving the environment and safeguarding the forests and wildlife to underline the destructive proposal. They also said the FAC was doing a “grave disservice to the country’s ecological security” by glossing over crucial facts and “accepting untenable submissions in reports” by the WII, the user agency and the Arunachal Pradesh forest officers.

The FAC, they said, “continues to ignore the biggest threat to forests — forest fragmentation — resulting from ill-planned intrusion of developmental projects into contiguous landscapes with natural forests” threatening rare floral and faunal species in a biodiversity hotspot.

The conservationists also picked holes in the FAC’s site inspection report “bereft of details of locations within the forests visited, number of grids across an altitudinal range inspected, the status of vegetation therein, direct and indirect signs of wild animals listed in the various schedules of the Wildlife Act and overall appreciation of the ecological value of the area.

Underscoring the inadequacy of the Environment Impact Assessment report on Etalin, the conservationists said observations by wildlife officials were ignored. These include the threat to 25 globally endangered mammal and bird species in the area to be affected.

They also termed as laughable the proposed mitigation measures of setting up butterfly and reptile parks.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 11:20:59 PM |

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